The What If

I write a newsletter for my Y. I interview members, weave their stories into my own. The purpose is to highlight the community in constant formation at our small branch; very few newsy items make it onto those pages. Mostly stories.

I'm writing one now about a woman who swims every day. She's "always been heavy," as she puts it, and for the past three or four years, planned her day around what's on TV. Depression had kept her inside the house, and "the more you don't move, the more you can't move," she told me. Carrying that weight around, even just to walk, was too much effort--she'd have to stop every few feet to catch her breath.

Once she made the decision to become a member, anxiety hit again. She didn't show up. A staff member called, encouraged her, and now this woman's life has completely changed.

This is the story I'll write. It's a marvelous one, which highlights everything I love about the Y: the communal ties, the ripple effect of health and wellness.

But I can't stop thinking about what could have been. Here's this sweet, friendly woman, who now has a circle of lively friends looking forward to seeing her each day. And just a few months ago she sat in her house alone, watching soap operas, thinking she'd always be judged for her weight. Had she not stepped into the Y--after much effort, and aided by a cane--and had the staff member not reached out, she'd still be in front of the television.

"I had to buy an alarm clock," she said, grinning. I couldn't immediately follow how this purchase related to our conversation, and then I realized: She never needed one before. She had no drive to wake early, except maybe to watch The Today Show. But now she's got to get to the pool. The cane stays home.

This woman sat in her house with no idea of what was to come. No hope. No idea that her life would, or could, turn into something worth waking for.

My God. What a close call.

We live, not comprehending what a phone call can do
We move with the cloud's shadow, not knowing the light shines just a step away
We walk, labored, choosing one path and not the next, and that decision determines everything


  1. Amy
    As I suffered through an atrocious breakup this year I realized how important even the slightest kindness can be when you're hurt and vulnerable. I think of myself as a warrior but I really needed my friends to drag me out of myself. Now, if I could only get the Y to give my mom that call...

  2. And so often, Robert, we don't know when people are hurt or vulnerable. I'm so glad your friends were aware of what you needed and made sure you got it.

  3. Great article! I'm sending this to all my Y colleagues!

  4. What transformative power a community holds for individuals. . .and how brave this woman was to join! It's inspiring.


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